I’m very excited to have a new paper out in Nature Ecology and Evolution. We show that flow regime alteration can be hugely damaging on riparian plant ecosystems. Moving even slightly away from the natural flow regime (the recorded historical pattern of floods and droughts) can lead to a collapse in the structure of ecological networks. The tools we used (mechanistic models and network theory) allowed us to examine not just overall network properties, but also the importance of individual members of the network, and I must say, it’s pretty exciting to see just how in tune these ecosystems are to the natural flow regime. By exploring the full gamut of possible flow regime futures on riparian plant ecosystems, we were able to underscore the importance of maintaining floods under future climates for healthy riparian ecosystems – both flow homogenization and drought scenarios had similar negative effects on the structure of the networks, but the addition of floods had a more minor influence.
Find a full ‘behind the paper’ writeup here.
Tonkin, J. D., J. D. Olden, D. M. Merritt, L. V. Reynolds, and D. A. Lytle. 2018. Flow regime alteration degrades ecological networks in riparian ecosystems. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2:86-93.